Of all the reasons to do a remake of a film, “it wasn’t in English” is one of the worst. There’s nothing wrong with subtitles, provided they’re well-done. But time and again, studios insist on catering to people’s laziness and reluctance to read in a movie. Sometimes, this can still work out alright (The Ring, Let Me In), but for the most part, the Americanized version is just a watered-down copy whose chief difference is the addition of white people (One Missed Call, Pulse, too many others to count). Quarantine is much closer to the second type than the first: its differences from the original film are mostly superficial, and literally every plot point is taken straight from from the source without change. Basically, if you’ve seen [REC], you will know everything that’s about to happen here, and when it’s about to happen.
It’s a shame, too: if it weren’t a remake of a spectacularly awesome horror film, Quarantine would be a pretty cool little film. Despite its lack of inventiveness, it’s still scary, even when it’s aping its originator. I’m not sure if that’s more a testament to its premise, or the work of director John Erick Dowdle, but at the very least, it managed to keep me from getting bored. That may not sound like much, but it’s rather high praise for what’s a near-identical remake.
The changes from [REC] don’t really amount to much for the most part: the building has an elevator, the cast is larger, and there’s a couple of scenes where we get to see the cameraman, which was a nice touch. Oh yeah, there is one big change: the infection isn’t possession this time; it’s just a super strain of rabies. It’s questionable if the infectees are actually zombies: some of them take serious punishment and still keep moving, and it’s an extremely fast-acting strain (symptoms show within a couple of hours), but it’s never really shown if the people are dead or not. It’s not a bad choice, and I understand why it was made (it’s easier to accept), but it still feels a little less scary as a result. There’s something about the possession angle that just gave [REC] a little extra oomph – it feels a little more terrifying to me, even though I’m not religious. Plus, the first sequel took full advantage of the supernatural aspect, when the possessed began to speak in one another’s voices. On the plus side, the elevator does come into play in a particularly vicious kill, and gets used again to great effect in the climax.
If, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the makers of [REC] ought to be all flattered as hell: Quarantine never tries to stretch its legs and get too original. Although it works pretty well as a copy, it gets penalized for its lack of originality. It’s fine, but why settle for the imitator when you can have the real thing?